Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves: The Ohio Narratives
Work Projects Administration
Part 3 out of 3
do believe, do believe in slavery; while the Methodist to which Miss
Frances Cree belonged did not believe in slavery. The Davis family, (one
of the finest) did believe in slavery and they were good southern
Methodist. Mr. Cam., Miss Frances brother was not so opposed to slavery
as was Miss Frances. Miss Frances willed us to the care of her good
Methodist friend Miss Eliza Sands of Ohio."
"Culture loosens predijuce. I do not believe in social equality at all
myself; it cannot be; but we all must learn to keep to our own road, and
bear Christian good will towards each other."
"I do not know of any colored people who are any more superstitious than
are white people. They have the advantages of education now equally and
are about on the same level. Of course illiterate whites and the
illiterate colored man are apt to believe in charms. I do not remember
of hearing of any particular superstitious among my church people that I
could tell you about, no ma'm, I do not."
"In church music I hold that the good old hymns of John and of Charles
Wesley are the best to be had. I don' like shouting 'Spirituals'
show-off and carrying on--never did encourage it! Inward Grace will come
out in your singing more than anything else you do, and the impression
we carry away from your song and, from the singer are what I count."
Read well, sing correctly, but first, last, remember real inward Grace
is what shows forth the most in a song."
"In New Oreleans where I went to school,--(graduated in 1887 from the
Freedman's Aid College)--there were 14 or 15 colored churches
(methodist) in my youth. New Oreleans is one third colored in
population, you understand. Some places in the south the colored
outnumber the whites 30 to 1.
"I pastored St. Paul's church in Louieville, a church of close to 3,000
members. No'ma'm can't say just how old a church it is."
"To live a consecrated life, you'd better leave off dancing, drinking
smoking and the movies. I've never been to a movie in my life. When I
hear some of the programs colored folks put on the radio sometimes I
feel just like going out to the woodshed and getting my axe and chopping
up the radio, I do! It's natural and graceful to dance, but it is not
natural or good to mill around in a low-minded smoky dance hall."
"I don't hold it right to put anybody out of church, no ma'm. No matter
what they do, I don't believe in putting anybody out of church."
"My mother and her children were sent to Miss Eliza Sands at Gallipolis,
Ohio after Miss Frances Cree's death, at Miss Frances' request. Father
did not go, no ma'm. He came later and finished his days with us."
"We went first to Point Pleasant, then up the river to Gallipolis."
"After we got there we went to school. A man got me a place in
Cincinnati when I was twelve years old. I blacked boots and ran errands
of the hotel office until I was thirteen; then I went to the FREEDMAN'S
AID COLLEGE in N' Orleans; remained until I graduated. Shoemaking and
carpentering were given to me for trades, but as young fellow I shipped
on a freighter plying between New Orleans and Liverpool, thinking I
would like to be a seaman. I was a mean tempered boy. As cook's helper
one day, I got mad at the boatswain,--threw a pan of hot grease on him."
The crew wanted me put into irons, but the captain said 'no,--leave him
in Liverpool soon as we land--in about a day or two. When I landed there
they left me to be deported back to the States according to law."
"Yes, I had an aunt live to be 112 years old. She died at Granville
(Ohio) some thirty years ago. We know her age from a paper on Dr. Cree's
estate where she was listed as a child of twelve, and that had been one
hundred years before."
"About the music now,--you see I'm used to thinking of religion as the
working out of life in good deeds, not just a singing-show-off kind."
Some of the Spirituals are fine, but still I think Wesley hymns are
best. I tell my folks that the good Lord isn't a deaf old gentleman that
has to be shouted up to, or amused. I do think we colored people are a
little too apt to want to show off in our singing sometimes."
"I was very small when we went away from Greenbriar County to Point
Pleasant, and from there to Gallipolis by wagon. I do remember Mr. Cam.
Cree. I was taring around the front lawn where he didn't want me; he was
cross. I remember somebody taking me around the house, and thats
all,-all that I can remember of the old Virginia home where my folks had
belonged for several generations."
"I've pastored large churches in Louisville and St. Louis. In Ohio I
have been at Glendale, and at Oxford,--other places. This old place was
for sale on the court house steps one day when I happened to be in
Lebanon. Five acres, yes ma'm. There's the corner stone with 1822--age
of the house. My sight is poor, can't read, so I do not try to preach
much anymore, but I help in church in any way that I am needed, keep
busy and happy always! I am able to garden and enjoy life every day.
Certainly my life has been a fortunate one in my mother's belonging to
Miss Frances Cree. I have been a minister some forty years. I graduated
from Wilberforce College."
This colored minister has a five acre plot of ground and an old brick
house located at the corporation line of the village of Lebanon. He is a
medium sized man. Talks very fast. A writer could turn in about 40 pages
on an interview with him, but he is very much in earnest about his
beliefs. He seems to be rather nervous and has very poor sight. His wife
is yellow in color, and has a decidedly oriental cast of face. She is as
silent, as he is talkative, and from general appearances of her home
she is a very neat housekeeper. Neither of them speak in dialect at all.
Wade Glenn does not speak in dialect, although he is from North
Stark County, District 5
Aug 13, 1937
WILLIAM WILLIAMS, Ex-Slave
Interview with William Williams, 1227 Rex Ave. S.E. Canton, O.
"I was born a slave in Caswell County, North Carolina, April 14, 1857.
My mother's name was Sarah Hunt and her master's name was Taz Hunt. I
did not know who my father was until after the war. When I was about 11
years old I went to work on a farm for Thomas Williams and he told me he
was my father. When I was born he was a slave on the plantation next to
Hunt's place and was owned by John Jefferson. Jefferson sold my father
after I was born but I do not know his last master's name.
My father and mother were never married. They just had the permission of
the two slave owners to live together and I became the property of my
father's master, John Jefferson until I was sold. After the war my
mother joined my father on his little farm and it was then I first
learned he was my father.
I was sold when I was 3 years old but I don't remember the name of the
man that bought me.
After the war my father got 100 acres and a team of mules to farm on
shares, the master furnishing the food for the first year and at the end
of the second year he had the privilege of buying the land at $1.00 per
When I was a boy I played with other slave children and sometimes with
the master's children and what little education I have I got from them.
No, I can't read or write but I can figure 'like the devil'.
The plantation of John Jefferson was one of the biggest in the south, it
had 2200 acres and he owned about 2000 slaves.
I was too young to remember anything about the slave days although I do
remember that I never saw a pair of shoes until I was old enough to
work. My father was a cobbler and I used to have to whittle out shoe
pegs for him and I had to walk sometimes six miles to get pine knots
which we lit at night so my mother could see to work.
I did not stay with my father and mother long as I was only about 14
when I started north. I worked for farmers every place I could find work
and sometimes would work a month or maybe two. The last farmer I worked
for I stayed a year and I got my board and room and five dollars a month
which was paid at the end of every six months. I stayed in Pennsylvania
for some years and came to Canton in 1884. I have always worked at farm
work except now and then in a factory.
I had two brothers, Dan and Tom, and one sister, Dora, but I never heard
from them or saw them after the war. I have been married twice. My first
wife was Sally Dillis Blaire and we were married in 1889. I got a
divorce a few years later and I don't know whatever became of her. My
second wife is still living. Her name was Kattie Belle Reed and I
married her in 1907. No, I never had any children.
I don't believe I had a bed when I was a slave as I don't remember any.
At home, after the war, my mother and father's bed was made of wood with
ropes stretched across with a straw tick on top. 'Us kids' slept under
this bed on a 'trundle' bed so that at night my mother could just reach
down and look after any one of us if we were sick or anything.
I was raised on ash cakes, yams and butter milk. These ash cakes were
small balls made of dough and my mother would rake the ashes out of the
fire place and lay these balls on the hot coals and then cover them over
with the ashes again. When they were done we would take 'em out, clean
off the ashes and eat them. We used to cook chicken by first cleaning
it, but leaving the feathers on, then cover it with clay and lay it in a
hole filled with hot coals. When it was done we would just knock off the
clay and the feathers would come off with it.
When I was a 'kid' I wore nothing but a 'three cornered rag' and my
mother made all my clothes as I grew older. No, the slaves never knew
what underwear was.
We didn't have any clocks to go by; we just went to work when it was
light enough and quit when it was too dark to see. When any slaves took
sick they called in a nigger mammy who used roots and herbs, that is,
unless they were bad sick, then the overseer would call a regular
When some slave died no one quit work except relatives and they stopped
just long enough to go to the funeral. The coffins were made on the
plantation, these were just rough pine board boxes, and the bodies were
buried in the grave yard on the plantation.
The overseer on the Jefferson plantation, so my father told me, would
not allow the slaves to pray and I never saw a bible until after I came
north. This overseer was not a religious man and would whip a slave if
he found him praying.
The slaves were allowed to sing and dance but were not allowed to play
games, but we did play marbles and cards on the quiet. If we wandered
too far from the plantation we were chased and when they caught us they
put us in the stockade. Some of the slaves escaped and as soon as the
overseer found this out they would turn the blood hounds loose. If they
caught any runaway slaves they would whip them and then sell them, they
would never keep a slave who tried to run away."
NOTE: Mr. Williams and his wife are supported by the Old Age Pension.
Interviewed by Chas. McCullough.
Back to Full Books